RCMP, province call out Surrey mayor over his comments following fatal shooting

B.C.'s RCMP Deputy Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr says Mayor Doug McCallum's comments "risk undermining public trust and confidence in policing."

Safety minister disputes claim that the province is blocking a municipal police force

Doug McCallum is sworn in as Surrey's mayor at a ceremony at city hall on Nov. 5, 2018. He ran on a platform of replacing Surrey RCMP with a new local police force. (Colin Fode/CBC)

Surrey Mayor Doug McCallum's comments about an overnight homicide in Surrey have earned him a stern rebuke from the RCMP in B.C. and the provincial government. 

A 22-year old man was shot dead in the Newton area of the city early Friday morning less than a block from Georges Vanier Elementary School on 142 Street in Surrey.

RCMP say the death is targeted and is likely associated with the Lower Mainland's region-wide gang conflicts. 

McCallum released a statement Friday saying the death is "yet another example of the ongoing trauma and fear that are being inflicted on the communities, residents and families of Surrey."

The recently-elected McCallum ran on a platform of eliminating Surrey's RCMP force in favour of an independent municipal police force. In his first council meeting Monday, McCallum put forward a motion to create that force.

The mayor said he's "dismayed" by the resistance from provincial officials and urged Premier John Horgan to remove roadblocks to help the transition proceed.

In fact, the RCMP need at least two years' formal notice from a city to leave a detachment. Monday's motion only asks staff to start that process.

Comments undermine public trust: RCMP

In response to McCallum's remarks, Deputy Commissioner Brenda Butterworth-Carr of the B.C. RCMP released a statement saying his comments risk undermining public trust and confidence in Surrey's current police force.

"With a homicide of this nature, people are already reluctant to come forward," Butterworth-Carr wrote. "Any erosion of public trust and confidence challenges our ability to solve complex cases with assistance from people who are often reluctant to participate in the first place."

A new police force isn't created over the weekend.-Mike  Farnworth , B.C.'s Minister of Public Safety

Butterworth-Carr emphasized the Surrey RCMP and IHIT, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, would continue "to work diligently to maintain public safety."

"Until Surrey RCMP is no longer the contracted police service, our employees must be allowed to and will continue to police safely and effectively. I will not allow public confidence in policing to be undermined or eroded."

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth also responded to McCallum's comments, saying the province is not "putting up any roadblocks."

He said the province is working with Surrey to develop a plan for their own police force, but the mayor "has to be willing to work too."

"A new police force isn't created over the weekend," Farnworth wrote. "We want to make sure there is a solid plan in place to ensure the people of Surrey have strong policing they can be confident in."

Former Surrey city councillor Barinder Rasode says it's important to focus on facts when it comes to the city's policing issue. (Colin Fode/CBC)

Barinder Rasode, a former Surrey city councillor, said McCallum's comments during a tragic homicide in the community were "absolutely irresponsible."

"People [like McCallum] are saying what's popular," Rasode said. "That's not going to serve anybody."

Rasode said it is important to focus on facts as the city addresses its policing issue. 

"It's been such a big issue for such a long time," she said. "What's really important as we move forward is we go through a process that engages in facts on whether it's a benefit for Surrey to move away from the RCMP or not."

Premier John Horgan said there is a "serious issue" with gang shootings in the Lower Mainland and the province wants to address that. He said the province would work with McCallum when the mayor brings forward a plan.

With files from Jesse Johnston, Meera Bains and the Canadian Press